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The human right to smoke. By Mary Kenny

Blog | By Mary Kenny | May 09, 2023

This monkey lights up.

Each time I take my monthly Aer Lingus flight between Gatwick and Dublin, I buy a carton of Silk Cut cigarettes for a dear family member who enjoys the odd few fags. As Ireland is in the EU and Britain is not, duty-free purchases are on sale – so the gaspers are cheaper.

But when the next Labour government arrives – and there will very likely be one next year – cigarettes will be en route to prohibition, with a view to a total ban within six years.

Do I feel guilty buying these ciggies, complete with their graphic photographs of diseased organs and ghastly afflictions caused by smoking?

No. I’m acquiring this tobacco product for someone mature enough to make her own decisions, who moderates her smoking sensibly and with consideration to others.

Hasn’t the universal cry of feminism for the last 40 years been about women being free to choose what they do with their own bodies? Isn’t the ongoing mantra all about ‘consent’? So if individuals ‘consent’ to smoke cigarettes, why should the Government restrain them?

Ah, but I am told by the New Puritans, cigarettes harm other people, and smoking-related diseases place a burden on the National Health Service. But cigarette taxes also contribute hugely to the national exchequer (not, admittedly, when you’re dodging the said levies on a duty-free flight). And if smokers do die earlier, then they are relieving the NHS of the long-time care of the infirm old.

We of a certain vintage have known many contemporaries who have been felled by dementia, strokes, pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, Parkinson’s, heart attacks, brain tumours and more, who never put a cigarette near their lips. As Oldie founding father Richard Ingrams has written, you have to die of something.

Yes, we’re all aware ciggies are bad for your health, although, in the past, they’ve often been seen as beneficial for social life, camaraderie and sharing a moment together. I don’t actually recommend taking up the old coffin nails, but it would be intolerably bossy to ban them.